Are sugar substitutes a better healthy diet habit than sugar? You be the judge!
Types of Sugar substitutions: They come in many colored packets, and you know them as the pink, light blue, and yellow packets! There are also some newer sugar substitutes coming onto the market. Here is some of what is known about each:
The pink packets called Sweet’N Low. They are not used too often, because they do not taste great. They are approved by the FDA, but some health groups cite studies that saccharin and aspartame have been associated with cancer. Avoid them!
The blue packets full called Equal or NutraSweet. They are approved by the FDA. Side effects could be headaches, depression, cancer, and weight gain, even though it is calorie free. Avoid them!
This is a sugar substitute and is often found in sugarless gum, dry mixes for drinks, dairy creamers, instant coffees and teas, and many other products. This product causes cancer in animals. What about us or how about small children? Avoid these products.
The yellow packets called Splenda. Approved by the FDA. This sugar substitute can be used in baked goods instead of sugar, so it has become the most popular artificial sugar. It is touted as made from sugar. It is not a natural product, and was originally discovered when a company was making a new insecticide. Not a lot of testing has been done on it. Until more testing is done, avoid sucralose, unless you enjoy being a guinea pig or at least use it in moderation!
Sugar alcohols are used in many sugar - free dietetic foods. They are usually in the form of sorbitol, maltitol and zylitol, and should be used in very limited amounts because they cause extreme gas, bloating, and can act like a laxative. Avoid these at all times if you are sensitive!
Another sugar alcohol called Erythritol is sugar free, but does not cause these symptoms. It is sold as ZSweet and Zerose. They do not raise your blood sugar, and can be used in baked products. A cup of ZSweet measures like a cup of sugar. It is not made in a lab and is not a man made chemical like the first three on the list. All of the ingredients can be found in fruits and plants. Use this in moderation.
Stevia is a natural sugar sweetener made from the Stevia plant, and is calorie free. The FDA has approved their use in foods. They taste a bit different from sugar, so taste them first before you buy a huge box of them. There are three types of Stevia. You can find them in the light green packets called, "Stevia in the Raw", which are the best tasting, in my opinion. Two other brands, PureVia, or Truvia, both are mixed with other sweeteners, and leave a slight aftertaste. These are probably the best choice, although they do not taste as good as Splenda.
Agave Sweeteners are the newest sugar sweeteners. They are made from a native plant of Mexico and come in a syrup form and are not calorie free. They do not send your blood sugar skyrocketing like sugar can do though. They contain a high level of fructose and are processed. They could end up being similar to high fructose corn syrup. Avoid them!
Monk fruit is a small round fruit grown in Southeast Asia which has been used in Chinese medicine. It was approved by the FDA to be used as a sweetener in 2010. It has zero calories and zero carbs so it will not raise your blood sugar and may be a good option for diabetics. It can be used for cooking and baking.
The Lifestyle Solution would be to limit the use of most sugar substitutes as well as agave sweeteners. Use them in moderation. My choice would be try Stevia or Monk Fruit. I have not tried ZSweet for baking, but I will do that and get back to you.
The healthy diet habit would be to cut down your taste for sweet foods in general, rather than trying to eat chemically sweetened foods. Eat natural fruits when possible, if you feel like sweets!